Israel announced the intensification of its strikes on the Gaza Strip in preparation for a ground invasion of the Palestinian enclave, and the United States the strengthening of its military assets in the region to prevent a serious conflagration there. ;generalized.
“From today, we will increase the strikes” on the Gaza Strip, General Daniel Hagari, spokesperson for the Israeli army, warned on Saturday, the aim being according to him to “reduce the risks for our forces in the next steps” of the conflict.
Since the Hamas attack on its territory on October 7, Israel has vowed to annihilate the Islamist movement in power in the Gaza Strip.
“We are going to enter Gaza, we are going to do it for an operational purpose, to destroy the infrastructure and the Hamas terrorists, and we are going to do it in a professional manner,” the head of state said on Saturday during a troop review. -Israeli major, General Herzi Halevi.
More than 1,400 people have been killed on Israeli territory by Hamas men since October 7, the majority of civilians mowed down by bullets, burned alive or dead of mutilations on the first day of the attack by fighters of the Palestinian Islamist movement carried out from Gaza, according to Israeli authorities.
In the Gaza Strip, at least 4,385 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed in incessant bombings carried out in retaliation by the Israeli army, according to the Hamas Ministry of Health.
Woman injured during bombing Israeli arrives at the Kuwaiti hospital in Rafah, in the Gaza Strip, on October 21, 2023 © AFP – Said KHATIB
The Israeli army has massed tens of thousands of soldiers on the borders of this cramped territory where 2.4 million Palestinians live. A ground operation promises to be perilous in this overcrowded city, riddled with death traps and tunnels, and facing seasoned Hamas fighters who still hold more than 200 Israeli or foreign hostages.
“Gaza is complex, Gaza is densely populated, the enemy is preparing a lot of things there, but we are also preparing for him,” warned General Halevi. “And we will keep in mind the photographs and images, as well as the deaths of two weeks ago.”
– Family decimated –
Six kilometers from the border with Gaza's Kibbutz of Beeri, where Hamas commandos massacred at least 100 people on October 7, is preparing for new burials on Sunday.
“I'm not sure that any of us will be able to assimilate and understand what happened,” says Romy Gold, a 70-year-old former paratrooper, who is preparing to attend the funeral. of five members of the same family.
Demonstrators call for the release of hostages held in Gaza by Hamas, October 21, 2023 in Tel Aviv © AFP – AHMAD GHARABLI
“We need assurance that this will not happen again,” he said, “and that is not the feeling we have.”
According to the Israeli army, around 1,500 fighters from Hamas were killed in the counter-offensive which allowed Israel to regain control of the attacked areas.
On October 15, Israel ordered civilians from the north of the Gaza Strip to flee to the south of the territory. to protect itself from its bombings against Hamas.
– “Catastrophic” situation in Gaza –
But bombings also continue in the southern parts of the enclave. Hamas authorities reported nine deaths during a strike in Khan Younes during the night from Saturday to Sunday.
Gaza Strip © AFP – Maxence D'AVERSA, Sabrina BLANCHARD
According to the UN, at least 1.4 million Palestinians have been displaced since the start of the conflict, and the humanitarian situation in the enclave is “catastrophic.”
“Time is running out before the “mortality rates soar due to the outbreak of diseases and lack of health care capacity,” five UN agencies warned in a joint statement on Saturday.
Subject to an Israeli land, air and sea blockade since Hamas took power there in 2007, the Gaza Strip has been placed under a “complete siege” since October 9 by Israel, which has cut off water, electricity and food supplies.
On Saturday, a convoy of twenty trucks carrying humanitarian aid entered the enclave from Egypt through the Rafah border post, the only exit of the Gaza Strip not controlled by Israel, which was subsequently closed again.
A humanitarian convoy enters the Gaza Strip from Egypt on October 21, 2023 at the Rafah border crossing © AFP – Belal Al SABBAGH
But according to the UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) , these twenty trucks are equivalent to only 4% of Gaza's daily imports before the start of hostilities, and at least 100 trucks per day are needed to improve the situation.
At least 42% of housing in the Gaza Strip has been destroyed or damaged since the start of the conflict, according to OCHA.
– American reinforcement –
Another source of tension, northern Israel, where exchanges of fire are increasing between the Israeli army and pro-Iranian Hezbollah, an ally of Hamas and based in southern Lebanon.
Hezbollah announced on Saturday that four of its fighters had been killed. Israel, for its part, indicated that three soldiers had been injured by anti-tank missile fire, one of them seriously.
An Israeli soldier near the border with Lebanon, October 21, 2023 © AFP – YURI CORTEZ
Faced with “escalations by Iran and its affiliated forces”, American Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced on Saturday evening the deployment of several anti-missile defense systems “across the region”, without specifying where exactly, and the placement in a state of “pre-deployment” of additional military assets.
“These measures will strengthen regional deterrence efforts, increase the protection of American forces in the region and contribute to the defense of Israel,” he said. said Mr. Austin.
After October 7, the United States already deployed two aircraft carriers and their escort ships to the Eastern Mediterranean to protect Israel.
Both on the Israeli side and on the Lebanese side, the towns near the border are emptying of their inhabitants, who fear a conflagration. According to Lebanese authorities, nearly 4,000 people flocked from the south of the country to the coastal city of Tire and found refuge in public schools or with their relatives.
An Israeli Merkava tank positioned near the Lebanese border, October 21, 2023 © AFP – Jalaa MAREY
“What we see on television, the massacres taking place in Gaza, the children, it breaks us heart,” says Moustafa el-Sayyed, 53, who left with his two wives and eleven children from Beit Lif, a small village located less than six kilometers from the border with Israel.
Since October 7, dozens of people were also killed in the occupied West Bank, by the Israeli army or residents of the settlements.
The Israeli army claimed on Sunday to have killed, during an airstrike, “terrorists” who were sheltering in an underground passage at the Al-Ansar mosque in Jenin, in the West Bank.
One person died and three others were injured in this strike, according to the Jenin Red Crescent . According to the Israeli army, the mosque served as a “command center for planning attacks”.
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